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Cockaponset's Report - Convoy HX 126

Received from Roger Griffiths (his source: Public Records Office, Kew)

HX 126 departed Halifax on May 10-1941and arrived Liverpool on the 28th

Page 1 - Ships in HX 126
Orders for ocean and local escorts (SC 31 & HX 126)
Commodore's Narrative of Events (& Tongariro's Report)
General Report / Misc. Escort Signals
HMS Aurania's Report
HMS Burnham's, HMS Burwell's & HMS Malcolm's Reports
Norman Monarch & Harpagus Reports
Report by the captain of Nicoya
Report of interview with the chief engineer of Darlington Court

Report of an Interview with Captain B. Green of Cockaponset
Shipping Casualties Section - Trade Division
Dated June 12-1941

We were bound from Halifax to Holyhead with 320 tons TNT, 340 tons of cannon powder, 2700 tons of steel and 6500 tons of general cargo. We were armed with 2 Lewis guns. The confidential books were all thrown overboard in a weighted bag. The number of crew, including 2 Military Gunners and myself, was 41, and there were no casualties.

We left Halifax on 6th May, but owing to engine trouble we had to return to port (Cockaponset had been scheduled for the previous convoy, HX 125 - She had also been cancelled from HX 124 and HX 123). We left again on 10th May sailing in Convoy HX 126. We were sailing in 9 columns and our position was No. 63. We had fog for the first few days out and on the first fine day we practised making 90 degree emergency turns, after which we again encountered fog at intervals. When darkness fell we received a K.K. practice signal from the Commodore, which meant that we all had to proceed at full speed, but when daylight came half the ships of the convoy were over the horizon ahead and the remainder were right astern.

On the night of the 19th May we heard an explosion on the starboard(?*) hand of the convoy and saw a small fire which dropped astern. One ship tried to fire some rockets which did not go off and another one gave out 6 short blasts. About 03:00 on the 20th we made a 45° turn to port and received orders to drop smoke floats. At 04:00 we made another 45° turn to port, after which we continued on the same course until 06:00 when we made a 90° turn to starboard. At 07:00 we altered course in succession to North and received a signal that a submarine had been sighted ahead and that all our look-outs were to be posted. At 11:00 we received a signal to alter course in succession to 035°.

* Norman Monarch, the first ship to be torpedoed, was in station 91 of the convoy - see the second table on Page 1.

At 12:50 the Darlington Court, which was No. 41 in the convoy, was torpedoed. About 2 minutes after the Darlington Court was torpedoed a Tanker astern of her (this was British Security in station 42) was struck by a torpedo, and almost immediately caught fire. Another tanker astern got into the flames from the other tanker, and when she came out we noticed that she also was on fire, continuing to burn for 3 days(?). (The ship astern of British Security was Rosewood in station 43). At 12:55 we made an emergency turn of 90° to port and proceeded at full speed, but we had to make more than 90° turn in order to keep clear of the flames.

At 13:10 when in position 57 24N 40 56W, the sea being calm, wind S.E. force 2, the weather fine and the visibility good, we were struck by a torpedo on the starboard side in No. 4 hatch. All the hatches were blown off and the ship immediately listed and water came over the after deck. No one saw the wake of the torpedo. It was not a very loud explosion; I did not see a column of water thrown up, nor did I smell cordite. There was no flash, but paper in the hold caught fire and there was a fair amount of burning paper round the ship.

Immediately after the explosion the Engineers stopped the engines and I went to investigate the extent of the damage. By this time the after deck was awash so we decided to lower the boats. The starboard boat got away very quickly. The Chief Officer, 3rd Officer and myself remained on board to see that no one was left behind. We launched the rafts in case they would be required and then left the ship in the port boat, as there was a peculiar noise and a quantity of smoke coming from the hatches. We remained close to the ship until she sank stern first with her bow in the air at 13:35. We then pulled over to the starboard boat in order to transfer some men, as we had 29 men in my boat and only 12 in the starboard boat.

About 20 minutes later there was a loud explosion* which shook the boat considerably and brought a quantity of dead fish to the surface. There was no water thrown up, but just before the explosion it felt just as if something was tapping under the boat.

We decided to keep in the vicinity as we thought someone would come to our assistance, especially as we were near to the burning tanker which could be seen for a great distance. We were eventually picked up by the rescue ship Hontestroom (note that this was not the the rescue ship assigned to the convoy - see Page 1). The Dutch crew from this ship were not very friendly, and did not go out of their way at all to make us comfortable (this complaint is also evident in Darlington Court's report). They had only enough provisions for 3 days, and were not really properly equipped as a rescue ship. There was no different accommodation made for Officers, and we all had to go in together. We proceeded on board the Hontestroom and were landed in Iceland.

* This mysterious explosion is mentioned in several reports. The Commodore in Hindustan states in his narrative:
"At 10:50, a very heavy explosion shook the ship. No cause for it could be seen. So heavy was it that Nicoya 4 to 5 miles on our starboard quarter stopped and blew off steam. Dorelian 2 miles astern had some men, at work on boat deck, blown overboard" (strangley, the incident is not mentioned in Nicoya's captain's report).
Additionally, a subsequent letter to The Director of Anti-submarine Warfare, dated June 7-1941 states the following (having quoted the Commodore's referral to this explosion, as well as a paragraph in Aurania's report - see May 20 in her report, which gives the time as 13:40 GMT):
"No satisfactory explanation of this explosion has yet been deduced, though three possible causes occur to D. A/S W.:
a) Darlington Court or British Security, which had been torpedoed at 09:38/20, blew up. - Unlikely, as the former's cargo consisted of 8000 tons of wheat, and the latter, a tanker, is reported to have still been blazing on the surface some hours later.
b) A U-boat blew up. - D. A/S W. doubts whether the simultaneous explosion of all the torpedoes in a U-boat could produce an explosion of the magnitude here reported.
c) That the shock was due to a subterranean earthquake.
The shock of the explosion and lack of any visible effect supports the view that the explosion occurred below the surface.
These reports appear sufficiently remarkable to warrant further investigation. It is therefore suggested that the Masters of all ships of this convoy be asked to describe their experiences at this time, and whether any eruption of the surface of the water was seen. It is requested that D. A/S W. may be informed of any facts which throw any light on the origin of this unexplained explosion".
(I haven't been able to coordinate the times for all these reports to determine whether they are all tallking about the same explosion, as I don't know which time zones were used in all of them).

See Page 1 for a list of ships sunk, and the U-boats that sank them, as well as Commodore's notes and names of escorts etc.

External links related to text above (
Norman Monarch | Darlington Court | British Security | Cockaponset

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To the next HX convoy in my list HX 127


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